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Ballistic Four-Book Review: 'Exposé 2', 'Exposé 3', 'CG Challenge XV: Machineflesh' and 'd’artiste: Digital Pai

Marisa Materna looks into the design work of Imaginary Forces, which has been a go to place lately when turning comicbook properties into feature films.

Within a few pages into Exposé 2, readers find themselves knee deep in the good stuff; namely, the best digital art created for the competition.

Within a few pages into Exposé 2, readers find themselves knee deep in the good stuff; namely, the best digital art created for the competition.

Ballistic Publishing, an enterprising specialty publishing house with offices in Australia and Florida, is really carving out an interesting nîche in the world of digital art. The company publishes digital art books of high quality, both in printing and content. Through their CG Networks websites, the editors have established strong ties to the exploding online digital artist community. The latest batch of books from Ballistic continues to impress, instruct and entertain. The last few months have seen the publication of many new books from Ballistic. For this review, Ill focus on the two latest books in the Exposé series, the first print compilation of the long running, online CG Challenge series and an excellent book in the dartiste series.

Exposé 2

First up is Exposé 2, published in May of last year. Before I get into the specifics of volume 2, there are some things you need to know about Exposé. The Exposé series is actually a competition, with the book representing the best entries, and, of course, the winners are prominently displayed. Each book starts out with bios of the advisory board and jury, followed by a detailed introduction written by the editors. Within a few pages, readers find themselves knee deep in the good stuff; namely, the best digital art created for the competition. There are various categories and awards, ranging from simple inclusion all the way up to the highest Exposé honor, Grand Master, awarded for special contribution to digital arts or for noteworthy skill.

For 2004, Ryan Church was selected as Grand Master. Churchs bio is followed by three pages of his stunning digital painting. As with most of the painters showcased in the book, his work shows almost no sign of being digitally generated. Well deserving of this honor, Church has gone on to participate in a series of training videos, as well continuing his concept art career, most recently on War of the Worlds and Star Wars: Episode III. His notable concept paintings for Star Wars: Episode II are featured on one of the three pages. There are too many other artists to name in this review, but some personal favorites of mine are Peter Fendrik, whose Earl Bird is a wonderful aristocrat caricature; Yanick Dusseault, an artist that uses familiar commercial art techniques with digital tools to create his Dream Flight; and last but not least, David Merrell, another illustrator using digital painting to push his craft further than might be possible with traditional media. His piece entitled The myth of influence is a sure sign of further greatness to come.

Exposé 3 presents the advances of digital art in the year since the previous publication. Oriental Heroine is the hyper-real cover piece by Korean artist Eun-Hee Choi.

Exposé 3 presents the advances of digital art in the year since the previous publication. Oriental Heroine is the hyper-real cover piece by Korean artist Eun-Hee Choi.

Exposé 3

Volume 3 of the Exposé series picks up where volume 2 left off and hits the ground running. From the cover art alone astute readers will pick up the advances of digital art in the year since the previous publication. Oriental Heroine is the hyper-real cover piece by Korean artist Eun-Hee Choi. As with all the images in the Exposé books, the image credits include title, artist and software used. This information is all noteworthy, especially considering were still in the early days of digital art. I cant help but eagerly await the day when the software used is no longer deemed essential information. I hope Ballistic takes this leap in future editions and does away with the software used portion of the image description. There is always a place for this information in a detailed tutorial, but in a caption, the image and the artist are all that really matter. Meanwhile, in addition to the introductory pages mentioned earlier, volume 3 adds a contents page. This was sorely missed in the earlier volume and makes browsing a particular section much quicker. Grand Master this time out is awarded to Pascal Blanché, an experienced digital image creator and animator with credits on both films and videogames. His work is showcased on five pages and is among my favorite artwork anywhere. His images combine the playfulness found in Tim Sales comic book pages with a gritty reality not too far from H.R. Giger. The advances I mentioned earlier are apparent mostly in the faux oil paintings that are more and more popular amongst digital painters. Of particular note are paintings by Jose Manuel Fernandez Oli, Jiansong Chen, Peter Fendrik (back again) and Eric Tranchefoux.

Machineflesh was the theme for the 15th CG Challenge. Contributors were asked to depict mechanically altered and enhanced organic life in a macabre mix of sci-fi and horror.

Machineflesh was the theme for the 15th CG Challenge. Contributors were asked to depict mechanically altered and enhanced organic life in a macabre mix of sci-fi and horror.

CG Challenge XV: Machineflesh

The CG Challenge began online in 2002 as a way for participants in the online forum CG Talk to push each other further in their digital art creation endeavors. Over the years these contests, or challenges, have seen some wonderful talent emerge. The subject of the contest has always been playful, thought provoking and anything but boring. Previous challenges have included beasts of burden, twisted extreme sports and pirates. There arent many rules, other than artists must post their work in progress, be open to critique and have a strong desire to learn from the experience. For the 15th CG Challenge a vote was taken and the response was nearly unanimous in favor of publishing the best work from the contest. Machineflesh was the theme for this 15th challenge. Contributors were asked to depict mechanically altered and enhanced organic life in a macabre mix of sci-fi and horror, says the book introduction. The results are great, but this is a different crowd from the Exposé entrants. Folks with enough spare time to properly enter one of the challenges may not yet be employed full-time as a digital artist. Occasionally, this is evident in the work entered in the challenge, but by and large the work is of high quality. The factor that makes this title a must purchase is the detail many artists go into when explaining their methods. The first half of the book is devoted to this section and is easily worth the cover price. Krishnamurti M. Costa won this challenge with his Bio-Mechanics Allegory image. Following a full page devoted to his award-winning entry, Murti is given six pages by the editors to discuss his work and philosophy. Daryl Mandryk is the other winner for this challenge, honored for his Machine-hunter image. Mandryk contributes equal commentary on his work. Runners-Up are also given the chance to discuss their work, some throughout as many pages as the winners. Another personal favorite of mine, Frederick Meier, has his artwork featured later in the book.

Ballistic delivers artists secrets in its dartiste tutorial series. Linda Bergkvist, Philip Straub, John Wallin and Robert Chang go through two extensive tutorials, covering how and why they approach their work.

Ballistic delivers artists secrets in its dartiste tutorial series. Linda Bergkvist, Philip Straub, John Wallin and Robert Chang go through two extensive tutorials, covering how and why they approach their work.

dartiste: Digital Painting

Last but not least in this Ballistic book overview is the more educationally oriented dartiste: Digital Painting. For the dartiste series Ballistic has brought the tutorial to the forefront, even going as far as adopting some collegiate nomenclature. The subtitle is Digital Artists Master Class. Heady stuff. The good news is the book delivers on this promise. Four artists are featured: Linda Bergkvist, Philip Straub, John Wallin and Robert Chang. Each artist gets a thorough bio, image gallery and then is turned loose to share their secrets. The artists all go through two extensive tutorials, covering how, but also why, they approach their work the way they do. This kind of material is quite rare in the average software book and therefore a real treat. Ill be encouraging my students to pick up a copy of the dartiste books not only to learn some new techniques but more crucially to broaden their horizons to the varied uses of digital art. I would like to see Ballistic go one step further and begin including DVDs with the dartiste books. Print is great, especially for quick reference, and it shouldnt be passed over. However, video can capture the intangible moments of creation that all artists crave. dartiste: Digital Painting is a gorgeous volume and a collection of quality tutorials all in one. I highly recommend it to aspiring digital artists, accomplished artists looking to break into digital work and art lovers of all kinds.

The artwork in these books is a testament to the tools, but more so to the artists using them. It is clear to me after surveying these books that even with our wonderful digital tools, artists must always understand the fundamentals of form, light, color and shadow in order to produce beautiful images. Software is not a crutch; rather, its just another of the many tools artists may choose to employ. The next time someone turns up their nose at the mention of digital art, send them a copy of a Ballistic book just about any will do.

All Ballistic Publishing titles are available from their online bookstore www.ballisticpublishing.com.

Exposé 2: Finest Digital Art in the Known Universe, series created by Mark Snoswell and Leonard Teo, edited by Daniel Wade and Mark Snoswell.Ballistic Publishing: Mylor, SA, Australia, 2004. ISBN: 09750965-9-1 (soft cover edition) $45.15; ISBN: 09750965-8-3 (hard cover edition) $53.57; ISBN: 09750965-7-5 (limited edition) 152.35; 192 pages.

Exposé 3: Finest Digital Art in the Known Universe, edited by Daniel Wade and Paul Hellard. Ballistic Publishing: Mylor, SA, Australia, 2005. ISBN: 1-921002-14-X (soft cover edition) $45.15; ISBN: 1-921002-13-1 (hard cover edition) $53.57; ISBN: ISBN: 1-9210021-15-8 (limited edition) 136.96; 208 pages (soft and hard cover editions); 224 pages (limited edition).

CG Challenge XV: Machineflesh, edited by Daniel Wade; challenge organized by Leigh van der Byl and Leonard Tao, Ballistic Publishing: Mylor, SA, Australia, 2005. ISBN: 1-921001-09-3 (soft cover edition) $33.68; 95 pages.

dartiste Digital Artists Master Class: Digital Painting, by Linda Bergkvist, Philip Straub, John Wallin and Robert Chang. Ballistic Publishing: Mylor, SA, Australia, 2004; ISBN: 0-9750965-5-9 (slip cased edition) $48.23; ISBN: 0-9750965-6-7 (limited edition) $152.35; 191 pages.

Fred Galpern is currently the art manager for Blue Fang Games located in Waltham, MA. Since entering the video & PC game field more than six years ago, Galpern has held management positions in several game and entertainment companies, including Hasbro and Looking Glass Studios. He began his art career as a comic book creator and also has professional graphic design experience. He has created characters and developed stories for numerous childrens television series. Galpern has satisfied his long-standing interest in education by teaching at several New England colleges. He is currently an adjunct instructor at Bristol Community College, where he co-created the associates degree gaming curriculum.

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